Pickleball Points

My concern has been when our pickleball community returns to the courts, they might not be physically ready because of lack of exercise and extra weight. Remember that long hill you climbed to get in shape with pickleball? Getting out of shape compares to it like a thousand-foot drop-off.

It is one thing to tell you that you need exercise and another to read what others are doing.

I know Don Creel of Bear Trap Dunes is walking rigorously because I see him periodically, trimmer each time, as he walks past my window view.

If I look out the other window, Steve Costa, commissioner of the Coastal Communities Pickleball League, blows past on his bicycle. Be careful, Steve, because Mike Smith, “Mr. Nice Guy of Pickleball,” is walking 7 miles every day, and I would not want to see you run down that slim athlete. I see Mike periodically on the court, doing inventive one-person drills to keep his feel for the ball.

My compliments to all three gentlemen, who were participants in the Cancer vs. Heart Survivors competition last year, where we raised $2,000 for the new Beebe emergency room.

Periodically, I see retired submariner Art Fitch silently and effortlessly glide by on his fancy bike like a silent submarine, which reminds me to thank him for his years of “silent service” under the ocean protecting the free world.

Dom Travaglini, when not studying the coronavirus for our pickleball community, is now jumping rope with a target of 30 minutes. Keep it up!

Mary Ann Vogel is still bike-riding. She and her husband, Mike, previously played national-level competitive pickleball and are also members of the Coastal Community Pickleball League. I am sure the quarantine is a test for them. Last year, after literally playing hours of daily pickleball, they rode their bikes down to the beach, where they would walk before riding home.

Her husband, Mike, has installed a net within their garage where they can dink and volley. Somewhat grounded now, they are using their spare time to watch advanced pickleball players on YouTube. I am putting my money on them to become a top notch team.

All of the folks I contacted are not the types inclined to speak about themselves, but when I told them I was hoping to help readers to make that extra step to exercise more, they opened up.

Mike and Maryanne Siegert of SeaGrass Plantation installed an abbreviated net in their driveway where they can practice dinking and volleys. Mike, a mathematics teacher for four decades and the football and lacrosse coach, understood the significance of my concern about a stilled pickleball community. Mike was a certified strength and conditioning specialist before retiring in Delaware.

With the absence of pickleball, Mike immediately decided to step up cardio on his bicycle. He rides every day, and smartly alternates his days between levels of intensity. Some days he and his wife will ride 15 miles in the Delaware countryside for an easy-pace recovery ride.

Mike also includes weight training in his daily exercises but wanted readers to understand that strength training does not have to include weights but can use body weight exercises focused on core strength. At our ages, he thinks strength mixed with stretching and balance exercise is important, and even includes balance exercise when he brushes his teeth. In fact, Mike was adamant about stretching.

I know those senior players I coached, as they got better and played younger competitors, typically lost because the younger players returned one or two unexpected balls because of their flexibility.

Steve Melofchik of Fairway Village is one of the pickleballers who inspired me last year to create the Cancer vs. Heart Survivors pickleball completion. He inspired me because, despite his serious health issues, he never once complained but religiously worked out in the gym each morning before joining us on the pickleball courts.

I wondered how he was doing in this quarantine without access to pickleball and the gym. Pay attention, because his response floored me. Remember, Steve was a school administrator and athletic director, so he knows how important it is to set a good example for others.

Steve has lost 30 pounds! Yes, he lost 30 pounds doing three things: exercising 90 minutes a day on a stationary bike, walking 75 minutes a day with his wife and spending 30 minutes with weights, strength training.

But the new discipline he has added to his day, especially during quarantine, when our kitchen beckons like Greek sirens from the misty shore, is to eliminate all snacks between meals. He went on to say he and his wife pay much more attention to a balanced diet, adding more fruit, and ended with keeping a positive attitude, reading and staying in touch with family.

It is not my intention to embarrass readers with their various routines. I hope from their examples, many of you can find a level of exercise that pushes you just enough to help strengthen your body but doesn’t put you at risk. All of the people I cited have been conscious of, and working toward, an improved level of fitness for years. Getting fit doesn’t happen overnight, nor will the new level of fitness you hope to gain be what you remember a decade ago.

You might even get a laugh out of exercise.

Today, I was walking my 4 miles in the soft beach sand. It’s hard work, and every step tests your legs and ankles. Suddenly, a four-wheeler Jeep rushed up in the sand and the youngish driver yelled, “Are you alright? Is there some place I can take you?” I imagined what I must look like to this Good Samaritan and burst out laughing, “I’m supposed to be exercising! But thanks.”

While everyone talks about the danger of COVID-19, aging is far more destructive. I no longer even recognize the fellow who brushes my teeth every morning. Exercise won’t stop aging, but it certainly help you minimize her insidious attacks on your body.

Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.